Vikings defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and tight end Irv Smith Jr. are considered "week-to-week" with the injuries suffered during the team's 34-26 win against the Cardinals on Sunday, head coach Kevin O'Connell said, meaning both players could be held out for Sunday's game in Washington.
Tomlinson went down clutching his right calf in the second half and was quickly ruled out. Smith was accidentally hit from behind by running back Alexander Mattison, who threw a block and landed on the back of Smith's legs during receiver K.J. Osborn's 5-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.
"We're going to continue to evaluate those guys over the next couple days," O'Connell said Monday. "It is looking like a week-to-week type scenario."
Tomlinson has been one of the Vikings' best defenders through a 6-1 start — "a force for us up front," O'Connell said — and replacing him in the lineup wouldn't be easy. The return of defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard, who missed Sunday's game due to an illness, would help. Without Bullard against the Cardinals, reserve nose tackle Khyiris Tonga debuted for the Vikings while James Lynch and Ross Blacklock had increased roles.
"I think we're planning to get [Tomlinson] back here pretty soon," nose tackle Harrison Phillips said. "I love our young guys who are getting more opportunities and saw their snap counts increase a lot this week and graded out pretty solid."
Smith, the fourth-year tight end, was becoming "more comfortable" in the offense before suffering the ankle injury, O'Connell said. Tight end Johnny Mundt is expected to remain the starter while Ben Ellefson is close to returning from a groin injury that landed him on injured reserve. The earliest Ellefson can return is Nov. 13 in Buffalo.
"Hoping for some good news on Irv as he continues to get evaluated," O'Connell said.
A red-zone heater
The Vikings offense has scored 12 touchdowns in the last 13 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line dating back to the Oct. 2 win over the Saints. Against the Cardinals, quarterback Kirk Cousins capped five red-zone drives with touchdowns, buoyed by effective play designs that created space for runners and receivers with pre-snap motion that distracted and spread apart the defense.
"When this field shrinks, some of that illusion can be hard to come by sometimes if you don't have the ability to run it or protect in the pass game," O'Connell said. "Five of five is a credit to all those guys. Really when I think how many times we've had lapses in the red zone, it's really been by our own doing, in my opinion. I think that really serves us well moving forward to know the types of things we can activate down there."
'Keep my money'
After Osborn's go-ahead touchdown with under nine minutes left, he chucked the ball toward the Vikings' mascot, Viktor, who corralled it while wearing a teddy bear costume as part of the Halloween festivities. The unusual celebration was just Osborn trying to avoid a $7,426 fine like what running back Dalvin Cook incurred for chucking a ball into the stands at Hard Rock Stadium on Oct. 16.
"I wasn't trying to hit the mascot," Osborn said. "My first thought was to throw it into the stands, but I wanted to keep my money. I don't get paid as much as Dalvin."
Etc.Less than a month after surgery to repair a compound fracture in his left leg, rookie safety Lewis Cine was spotted walking unassisted at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday. The 23-year-old's road back to playing is just beginning. "That will be the challenge throughout this rehab that can be grueling at times when it becomes a little bit more physical. He's got to have the support of everybody in this organization, and he certainly will," O'Connell said. The Vikings opened as 3.5-point favorites on the road Sunday at Washington, according to Bovada, marking the sixth straight game Minnesota has been favored by at least three points. The last time that happened was 2009, per Pro Football Reference. Former Gophers receiver Tyler Johnson re-signed with the Buccaneers practice squad.